Main content area

Effect of river restoration on life-history strategies in fish communities

Manfrin, Alessandro, Teurlincx, Sven, Lorenz, Armin W., Haase, Peter, Marttila, Maare, Syrjänen, Jukka T., Thomas, Gregor, Stoll, Stefan
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.663 pp. 486-495
biogeography, data collection, ecological restoration, fish, fish communities, functional diversity, land use, life history, rivers, Finland, Germany, Switzerland
Assessments of river restoration outcomes are mostly based on taxonomic identities of species, which may not be optimal because a direct relationship to river functions remains obscure and results are hardly comparable across biogeographic borders. The use of ecological species trait information instead of taxonomic units may help to overcome these challenges.Abundance data for fish communities were gathered from 134 river restoration projects conducted in Switzerland, Germany and Finland, monitored for up to 15 years. These data were related to a dataset of 22 categories of ecological traits describing fish life-history strategies to assess the outcome of the restoration projects.Restoration increased trait functional diversity and evenness in projects that were situated in the potamal zone of rivers. Restoration effect increased with the length of the restored river reaches. In areas with low levels of anthropogenic land use, the peak of the restoration effect was reached already within one to five years after the restoration and effect receded thereafter, while communities responded later in areas with higher levels of anthropogenic land use.In the lower potamal zone, a shift towards opportunistic life-history strategists was observed. In the upper rhithral zone, in contrast, species with an opportunistic life-history strategy increased only in the first five years of restoration, followed by a shift towards equilibrium strategists at restorations older than 5 years. This pattern was more pronounced in rivers with higher level of anthropogenic land use and longer restored river reaches. Restoration reduced the variability in community trait composition between river reaches suggesting that community trait composition within these zones converges when rivers are restored.This study showed how ecological traits are suitable to analyse restoration outcomes and how such an approach can be used for the evaluation and comparison of environmental management actions across geographical regions.